How to Conquer the Blank Page

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You’ve been staring at it for hours, and the infuriating little cursor just keeps blinking at you, taunting you, mocking you as it appears and disappears on your screen. You know in your heart that words must spill over, and that the wretched cursor must be pushed farther and farther along the page by the words you write, not a single one comes out.

The beginning is always the hardest, isn’t it? You’ve got that story down pat on your head. You’ve finished your novel and killed off as many characters as your black heart could kill, but when you sit down to actually write that novel, nothing would come out.

You’ve already completed that article or blog post in your mind. You’ve already laid out that one big message that could bless or inspire someone today, but as soon as you sit down to write it, nothing would come out.

Is there anything more terrifying than a blank page?

Is there anything more daunting than an empty space?

Is there anything more frustrating than a story or a message that refuses to be written?

Dear heavens, it happens to me every single time. All you people who experience the same agony, raise your hands up! (But read this first). In my mind, my heart, and my soul, The Lost Chronicles of Eden is done. I’ve killed some, saved some, maimed some, but dude, every time I sit down to actually write the story that demands to be written, I cannot. I cannot. I CANNOT.

But we can do this! Lots of veteran (and not-so-veteran, like me) writers give lots of helpful tips, and if you Google ‘how to start writing’, you’d get a thousand results in less than a two seconds (depending on the speed of your Internet connection—mine sucks, if you must know). They’ve shared lots, and but I also want to share with you what works best for me.

WHAT WOULD HELP YOU BEGIN?

My professor called it ‘pressure writing’, because you’re going to write under pressure. (THANKS A LOT, GENIUS.) No, really.

The thing is, in pressure writing, you will be required to write anything and everything that will come to your mind about a particular topic within a specified timeframe, usually 3-5 minutes.

And because you’re operating on limited time, you don’t get the chance to think much about the topic, you just have to let the thoughts flow freely from your mind to your hand. You also don’t have the chance to judge your thoughts, your words, or your work.

The aim of the exercise is to tap into your subconscious and force you to practically vomit all the thoughts in your head without discrimination, without judgment, without restraint.

See, your conscious mind is super judgmental. It feels like it knows everything, so it makes you criticize your work even before you start doing it. The truth is, you begin to edit your work as soon as you write your first sentence.

The purpose of this exercise is to let your subconscious mind, which holds all things wonderful and amazing and spectacular, to come out.

There are several ways to approach pressure writing, and I’ll share a few with you.

1. Listing

  • The first thing you need to do is to think of a particular topic, concept, object, place, person—ANYTHING—that you wish to write about, or is a part of what you’re aiming to write about.
  • Set your timer to three minutes. Once the timer starts, write down the things that come to your mind when you think about your keyword or topic. Don’t filter. Don’t edit. Don’t delete.
  • The things you wrote might not make sense, but there is a reason you thought of them.
  • Stop when the timer sounds off. You’ll notice that your hands are cramped, and you would feel like taking in a huge breath, but you’ll notice that your mind’s a little less cluttered and you feel a bit more relaxed. If not, repeat process (time yourself again), until you’re comfortable with what you’ve spilled on the paper.
  • From the list that you came up with, you can piece the concepts together, and make something out of it.

2. Free-writing or free-falling

  • Similar to listing, think of a topic/keyword/concept/etc that you would like to focus on.
  • Set your timer to three minutes.
  • Once the timer starts, go write anything — absolutely anything — that comes to mind in endless paragraph form. Unlike listing, here you can write freely. Go wild. Knock yourself out. Follow the stream of your thoughts. Don’t punctuate. Don’t dot your Is. Don’t cross your Ts. Don’t edit. Don’t erase. Don’t filter. Just write.

EXAMPLE: HOME

home what is home home is where the heart is oh my gosh that sounds so cliche but i must do it because dude i must give the readers an example on how to do this so i must not edit i must not erase typographical errors what do you mean i dunno home is like here at home im at home wiht my momma on the other room and i just watched americas next top model and monika didn’t win and thats ok but not really because home what about home if i’m going to write about home what shall i say perhaps oh yes cielos is the home of my characters but no not really not everyone lives in cielos because some of them lives in

Ok, I have to stop. Unrestrained, I would probably reveal everything about the plot, and then what would happen to Heroes? Spoiled because I couldn’t keep my mind shut when I free-fall.

I don’t do listing much anymore, but I free-write almost everyday. It’s a form of release when I write in my journal, and a form of tapping into the psyche of my character when I want to create their profiles. It’s also a form of healing when I am angry, and a form of literary suicide when I am sad.

(Warning: A lot of buried things come out in free-writing. Be brave to confront your demons when you do this).

Get everything out.

So these are just two of the techniques that you can use to conquer the blank page and beat the writer’s block. There’s a lot more about pressure writing that I teach in my Writing Seminars, most especially Write That Right Now! Stop Dreaming and Start Writing.

But seminar or not, what’s really important is that you let everything — every idea, every thought, every concept — out. Always remember that the first draft is for your eyes only. We come into writing thinking that the first draft we produce is the final draft that we need to submit, so we become harsher and stricter with ourselves, which limits our creativity.

We need to be kinder to ourselves, and just allow creativity to flow smoothly from our minds and hearts onto paper.

You go get everything out.

Edit later. Much, much later.

I hope this helps! Do these things and let me know via comments or email me at (karrenrenzsena@gmail.com) if they worked for you!

Please share this article as well on Facebook if this has helped you.

Write beautiful words!
Karren

P.S. 1: Do you want to receive free tips on writing? Anything about blogging, book writing, content creation, or simply about how to write beautiful words? Please check out the bottom of the page and subscribe to my list to receive my free monthly Project Beautiful Words newsletter.

P.S. 2: Guys, I wrote a novel entitled The Lost Chronicles of Eden: Champions. It’s a young adult fantasy novel about hidden worlds, mythical creatures, unlikely heroes (and the super subtle attraction between them because let’s face it, I low-key love writing subtle love stories), and a thrilling race against time to prevent an epic battle against the demons of the underworld.

So far it’s been doing really great, and it has carve its small niche amongst the shelves of Philippine Literature, all praise be to God. Many students have written book reports about it, and many teachers teach it under Young Adult Literature or Catholic Literature. The best thing that happened to it is that a brilliant professor has written and published a thesis about it, which had been presented in an International Literary Conference held in Singapore.

Friends, help me spread the word even further? Order a signed copy of Champions here and get free shipping in Metro Manila. Gift it to your friends, your sons and daughters, your students. Let’s make more Champions.

Order a copy of Champions here.